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FSU Names Sen. John Thrasher As Next President

Florida Senate
Credit Florida Senate

Florida State University has selected Sen. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine) as its next president. Many on the FSU Board of Trustees say Thrasher is a proven fundraiser who loves the university.

Thrasher is also chairman of Gov. Rick Scott’s reelection campaign, a post the FSU trustees have asked him to resign immediately. Thrasher’s legislative connections and ability to raise money are what board members cited again and again Tuesday before voting for him 11-to-2.

After the vote, FSU Board of Trustees Chairman and former Florida House Speaker Allan Bense told reporters, "It’s not all about money, but money is a big thing. I mean, for us to hit the top 25, we’ve got to lower the student-teacher ratio. We’ve got to hire a lot more faculty on, and that does take a good bit of money. I’m not saying that the others couldn’t do that, but he’s proven himself in that world.”

But several students and faculty spoke out against hiring a non-academic. Associate music Professor Nancy Rogers was one of them.

Student protesters led by a student who identifies herself as Lakey (no last name) (far right) chanted "FSU is not for sale!" upon hearing the decision Tuesday.
Credit Jessica Palombo / WFSU News
Student protesters led by a student who identifies herself as Lakey (no last name) (far right) chanted "FSU is not for sale!" upon hearing the decision Tuesday.

“Somebody who has never taught a class and never done research and really doesn’t have academic administrative experience is just not qualified to step into the position," she says, "and FSU really deserves someone who is ready to hit the ground running.”

Trustees interviewed three candidates who have run universities in various capacities. But several on the board said none of them is as familiar with the Florida governance system as Thrasher.

His presidency will not become official until the university system Board of Governors approves it, most likely in early November.

Thrasher issued the following statement through a spokeswoman:

“I am honored that the FSU Board of Trustees has selected me to be the next President of Florida State University.  However, this is just one more step in a long process which, under Florida law, must end with the approval of the Board of Governors (BOG).  While I am hopeful that the BOG will accept the trustees' decision, that final decision will not be known until November. In the meantime, I intend to continue to campaign for re-election to the Senate and will continue to carry out my commitment to the people of my district.  If I am ultimately selected to lead FSU, this will allow the voters to select who will be the next Senator from the 6th district.”

Copyright 2014 WFSU

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP